Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Visualisation - Thesis:Topic:Sentence::Conclusion:MainPoint:Point

In an attempt to show how students can short-cut their learning, by applying the same concept at different levels of language (just like tense and aspect, but that's another post), I tried to illustrate the relationship between a Thesis Statement, Topic Sentence and Theme and their relationship with the Point, a Main Point and a Conclusion (and the relationship between those items), as the general progression from what you are talking about to what you want to say. The diagram came out looking like like the one here.

The idea, from SFL, is that Macro-Themes (aka Thesis Statement in academic writing / composition) project to Hyper-Themes (or Topic Sentences) which project to Themes in clauses. Similarly, a Conclusion is a Macro-New, or the accumulation of Hyper-News (main points of the paragraphs) which are the accumulation of the New from each clause in a sentence. This is not a new idea, as it comes from Jim Martin's "English Text" (John Benjamins, 1992). I just thought I could re-visualise it and apply it directly to the pedagogic context.

And then I thought, would it be possible to develop this into an animation. I have not tried to use Flash animation for a very long time (a few years at least) so I thought I should try and revive my previous very low level of skills. This may have been a very misguided thought, but since Blogger refuses to upload the Flash movie you will just have to take my word for it!

Monday, December 5, 2011


Various initiatives to provide shared, open-learning objects have been proposed, particularly from disciplines in engineering and medicine. Now we have the opportunity to contribute, share and download learning objects from the Humanities, through HumBox. This is a UK-based project, and has shown steady growth since its start last year. The aim is as follows: "to publish a bank of good quality humanities resources online for free download and sharing, and in doing so, to create a community of Humanities specialists who were willing to share their teaching materials and collaborate with others to peer review and enhance existing resources" (from the HumBox website).

The HumBox website is supported by HEA (including the LLAS) and JISC, and hosted by Southampton University. You can browse and download materials at any time, and you can quickly create an account so that you can upload materials or add comments to what is already on the site. Linguistics currently has 33 resources, but you will also find other useful other tags such as Language, Language Learning, Language Teaching, Language Variation, TESOL, TEFL, Teaching English, Text Cohesion and so on.

The advantages of the website have been blogged at the LLAS site (see the feed on the top right of this blog) by Kate Borthwick. Kate explains how HumBox might help you in the following ways:

  1. Use your OER repository as your personal website.
  2. Avoid carrying paper/USBs with you when you present at conferences.
  3. Refine and polish your teaching material following review by colleagues.
  4. Find useful resources to adapt or use if teaching a class at short notice.
  5. Enhance your digital presence and international reputation.
  6. See how other practitioners approach particular topics and keep up with developments in your discipline.
  7. Get good ideas for enhancing your practice and reflect on what you do.
  8. Use OER early in your career to glean ideas, and showcase work and teaching experience.
  9. See perspectives from other humanities disciplines.
  10. Feel confident in adapting and re-using other people’s materials.

When they hear about shared online resources, a lot of lecturers believe that they will never have to prepare a powerpoint again. They naturally become very disappointed when they find out that other people teach the same subject in a very different way, that their students do not share the same assumptions as the materials or that the materials are not to the standard that they would produce (not to mention problems with logos, names and copyrights). What I like about the list above is that the comments are very realistic about the use of shared resources. Sharing resources does not mean using the web to cut-and-paste classes. It means sharing ideas, making sure other people (especially those that pay you) are aware of your work, providing inspiration and acknowledging colleagues and fellow professionals.